City Council tables action on City Manager to January 4, for new council to handle

By Scott Hamilton

Dec. 15, 2021: The Sammamish City Council last night tabled until Jan. 4 action on whether to suspend city manager Dave Rudat.

Last night was the last meeting of the year for the current council. The next council, seated Jan. 4, includes three new members elected Nov. 3. A fourth member elected then, Amy Lam, was sworn on Nov. 24, filling a seat once held by Jason Ritchie. Ritchie resigned in January after moving to California. Former council member and mayor Tom Odell was appointed to Richie’s seat until the November election and certification on Nov. 23.

Rudat, the subject of a lengthy investigation, gave his first public response to the investigation. His response also included the first specific details released publicly of the probe. Council members previously discussed the investigation in general terms in open sessions, but details remained sealed in executive session deliberations.

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Deadline today for Rudat’s response; incoming Council Member Lam appears to be swing vote on discipline

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 30, 2021: The fate of Sammamish City Manager David Rudat may rest with Amy Lam, the City Council’s newest member.

Lam was elected Nov. 2 to fill out the remaining term of Jason Ritchie, who resigned early this year. Tom Odell was appointed to fill the position until the election. Lam defeated planning commissioner Josh Amato. The election was certified Nov. 23, at which time Odell left the council.

Lam hasn’t been sworn in yet. If she isn’t by the city clerk before the Dec. 7 council meeting, the next one after the Thanksgiving holiday, she will be then.

And one of the first decision she faces is whether to vote to suspend Rudat for 30 days without pay for mishandling confidential information and for other transgressions.

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Council move to fire City Manager fails, but 30 day suspension passes

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 17, 2021: The Sammamish City Council split Nov. 16 over whether to fire City Manager David Rudat or suspend him for 30 days without pay.

The motion by Council Member Tom Odell to notify Rudat, who was present and listening to the debate, that he would be fired for cause failed on a 2-5 vote. Council Member Pam Stuart supported Odell. Mayor Karen Moran, Deputy Mayor Christie Malchow, and Members Ken Gamblin, Kent Treen and Chris Ross opposed the move.

Ross then moved to suspend Rudat for 30 days without pay, after allowing Rudat to first respond to allegations of improprieties. Malchow seconded this motion. They were joined by Gamblin and Moran. Odell, Stuart and Treen opposed this motion.

Rudat has until Nov. 30 to respond before the suspension potentially is enacted.

Months of investigation

The actions come following months of investigation “To Evaluate Complaints or Charges brought against a Public Officer or Employee pursuant to RCW 42.30.110 (1)(f)” against Rudat. The probe was conducted by an outside attorney retained specifically for the investigation.

Moran, Gamblin and Treen voted months ago against launching the investigation. Sammamish Comment learned that Moran and Gamblin were concerned that the probe and any action that might result could have a detrimental effect on Moran’s campaign for a second term in the November 2 election. She won with 75% of the vote against a token opponent.

The investigation falls under the Executive Session provisions of state law, in which the city council discusses personnel matters. The council has held multiple executive sessions before last night’s action. The discussions within the sessions are not public. But debate over the two motions hinted at what was behind the moves to fire or suspend Rudat.

The investigation involved people outside the city government and centered on alleged improprieties of Rudat.

The motion to fire

Odell moved to adopt a resolution to notify Rudat that he would be terminated for cause, following an opportunity allowing him to respond in 30 days. Stuart seconded.

“I make this motion because the city manager has failed to adequately protect sensitive information from disclosure and failed to follow code of conduct,” Odell said.

“I support this motion. We’ve been conducting this investigation for quite some time. There is a pattern of behavior. There is a failure to protect sensitive information. I have lost confidence” in Rudat.

Moran kept interrupting Stuart, charging her with “pontificating” and not making her point. Moran characterized Stuart’s comments as “opinion.” Stuart objected to Moran’s frequent interruptions and characterization of her comments as “opinion.” The independent legal investigation was based on factual findings that drove Stuart’s decision and rationale.

“There is a pattern of behavior,” Stuart said.

“I am not going to support the motion for termination,” Malchow said. She said the report did not specify whether failure to safeguard information was tacit. Malchow instead supported a reprimand.

Moran opposed firing as well. “It’s against the spirit of any contract we have with the city manager. It’s premature. What we have, we were just starting to look at it and requires an explanation.”

“We have facts,” Stuart replied. “We have facts that the city manager failed to safeguard information.” Rudat, she said, violated the code of conduct of the International City/County Management Association and of the city’s code of conduct. The facts, Stuart said, also pointed to the city manager not protecting himself from undue influence of “outside people,” whom she did not identify.

Gamblin said “The entire investigation got off on the wrong foot. There was not enough discussion with the city manager. The preponderance of evidence points to lapses in judgment. It doesn’t rise to the level of termination. I think it’s laughable.”

Motion for suspension

Following the 2-5 vote for termination, Ross moved for a 30 day suspension without pay. Ross felt Rudat’s actions fell short of termination but “some sanction is appropriate given facts and information. It doesn’t say we lost confidence in the city manager. He’s a very talented individual. This gives us the opportunity to work with the city manager going forward for a positive relationship.”

Stuart, however, noted that the council terminated two city managers in the last 3.5 years “for far less,” and “We have evidence he lied to the investigator.”

A grim-faced Rudat was mute throughout the debate.

At the root of the investigation

What’s at the root of the investigation, in a confidential complaint filed by Miki Mullor, the editor of The Comment, is evidence that Dave Rudat was sharing confidential city information with his daughter, Stephanie Rudat. Stephanie Rudat is an administrator-moderator of several Sammamish-oriented Facebook groups. Criticisms of Dave Rudat and of council members she supports are often deleted, or threatened with deletion, from these groups. But one member of these groups, who uses the screen name David Benedet, is freely allowed to criticize Mullor and council members opposed to David Rudat. (This writer was thrown out of Save Sammamish today for criticizing one of the administrators, Kartik Mithal, for allowing Benedet’s latest rant and for Mithal posting his own allegations toward Mullor.) Mullor has evidence that Benedet receives talking points from Stephanie Rudat.

After Mullor in late May confidentially circulated  alleged malfeasance evidence to the council, which ultimately led to the 4-3 decision to hire an outside investigator, Moran immediately leaked the existence of the document to Stephanie Rudat. Two days after the leak, a Dave Rudat supporter filed a dozen or so public records requests targeting Mullor, who is a private citizen, and his wife, insinuating an undue influence on city council members. Some of the PRRs also named this writer, who had virtually no contact with council members or staff since the 2019 election.

In the months since the investigation began, Moran, Gamblin and Treen have through action or inaction moved to delay the probe.

The investigation’s report remains, for the moment, sealed in executive session deliberations.

Update: Administrators have now blocked the writer from Vote Sammamish and Sammamish. The administrators include Mithal and, for Vote Sammamish, Stephanie Rudat.

City affirms past manipulation of concurrency traffic modeling data in favor of development

By Scott Hamilton

Sammamish yesterday refuted allegations by former city employee Sarah Hawes Kimsey that Sammamish Comment reporting about concurrency traffic modeling was inaccurate.

Jeff Elekes, the public works director, wrote Kimsey asking for a correction to her blog in which she used an email from Transportation Planner Doug McIntyre to assert Sammamish Comment and Miki Mullor lied about how the city’s transportation model had been manipulated up to 2017 and beyond.

“…[Y]ou re-printed an email from a Transportation Planner on my team, Doug McIntyre,” Elekes wrote. “Both Doug and I are were very surprised to learn how his email to you was used and promoted in your blog.”

Miki Mullor

Elekes said, essentially, that Kimsey mischaracterized the traffic audit as a traffic modeling analysis to conclude there had been no manipulation in the past.

“However, I can confirm that Sammamish’s traffic modeling data under previous administrations has been manipulated in the past in favor of development,” Elekes wrote. “This has all been clearly documented through discovery and analysis. I am writing you now to set the record straight and give you the facts, which I expect you will use to correct your blog post.”

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Former Mayor Odell backs Malchow, Gamblin, Treen

By Tom Odell

Guest Column

It’s that time again.  The time that you, as a resident, citizen, and hopefully a voter, get to decide on the future of our both our local government as well as that of the City of Sammamish.

Tom Odell

The decision immediately at hand over the next few days is nothing less that the future nature of our city, Sammamish.  Your opportunity to be heard – and counted – will expire next Tuesday evening, November 5th.

At stake is the composition and direction of the next Sammamish City Council.  The choice should be clear:  one side is for unabated and unrestricted development within our city while the other is for moderated growth that keeps pace with our ability to handle it in terms of the capacity of our transportation system, the schools, and our ability to deal with increasing stormwater runoff issues.

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